June 30, 2022 Interview – Matt McCoy
Humility is something seldom seen nowadays, but is still greatly admirable. Veteran Actor Matt McCoy has starred in everything from 1988’s Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach to 1992’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, to even leaving a lasting impression on audiences with his role as Lloyd Braun on TV’s hit series Seinfeld. So how does he feel about it all? As if it has been one big blessing!
Enjoying the ride, McCoy continues to find himself in the thick of feature films and television series all these years later. Recently starring in the Western Drama Hostile Territory, the gracious actor sat down to chat about his career, lessons he has learned, plus a bunch more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in acting professionally for over four decades. Starring in a good balance of television and film, how would you describe career thus far?
Matt McCoy – Lucky! You are right, I’m forty-four years in and eternally blessed. I knew what I wanted to do very young, probably fourteen years old starting high school, and that is all I did through high school. I didn’t go to college, went on the road for two years doing musical theater, and realized I had zero idea what I was doing. I moved to New York, graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse, and found myself on a television series three weeks after I graduated. If that’s not luck, I don’t quite know what is! The longevity I’ve had and the consistent I’ve had has been a real gift.
Cryptic Rock – And you have done a lot of different things through the years too. You started in television then got involved in feature films, and then from there balanced the two. How would you compare working in television to feature films?
Matt McCoy – It was a different time back then. I think now everybody wants to be in television. With the streaming services and the quality of the shows that are on now, that is where everybody wants to be. Back in the day, it was very different. There was also a line then in a sense. There is no line anymore, everybody sort of does everything. I did a series for NBC back in 1983 called We’ve Got It Made, that’s what you did, you did sitcoms back then.
I’ve been lucky enough not to be pigeonholed; I’ve gone back and forth from Drama to Comedy. Moving onto the Police Academy movies, those were the first really big studio pictures I did. Then after that, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) and L.A. Confidential (1997). There is a really different vibe on big movies like that. I think the biggest thing I could remember was they shot so many less pages during a day. For The Hand that Rocks the Cradle we would only shoot two pages a day; we would really take our time and there were so many different setups. They plow through this stuff now. Two pages a day? My goodness, I don’t think there is a budget out there that would stand for that anymore!
I’ve been lucky to go back and forth between the two. I hit a really wonderful pocket after The Hand that Rocks the Cradle with all these videos on demand with Blockbuster, etc. Those were on a tighter budget, which brings us to Hostile Territory now, which was done on a tighter budget too. Full marks to Brian Presley for what he has delivered. The scope of Hostile Territory is really enormous, it feels like a a big movie. I think if I look back on the luck I’ve had, it has been the consistency to continue working for so many years, work for so many people, and not be pigeonholed.
Cryptic Rock – Those are all great things to have in an acting career. You have worked in Drama, Comedy, and now this period piece, Hostile Territory. How did this film come back for you?
Matt McCoy – It was initially called The Orphan Train. There was a period of time in our history where there really was an orphan train. I didn’t know much about it, but did some homework on it. Once again, Brian’s takes us through a real history lesson. The orphan train was really crazy…could you imagine taking kids and shipping them across the country? It was a really crazy time in our history.
Playing the character Andrew Lee, there was a real compassion about him. I would have to think compassion was in fairly short supply back in the day, especially for the position I was in helping Phil Calgrove (played by Cooper North) through this journey. I think that is what you look for in any of these, just moments, wonderful moments you can wrap your arms around. They are just a joy to play.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and you speak about the creative force behind the film, Brian Presley. He wrote, directed, produced, and acted in this film. This does feel like a bigger budget film because there is so much entailed within it. You can see the detail put into the costumes, the cast is very balanced and good, etc. So, what was it like working with Brian?
Matt McCoy – It was my first time meeting him. I knew he was wearing a lot of hats and I’ve been in that position before. You just really try to do anything you can to help this come to fruition because he is answering every question and putting out every fire as the producer and director. A lot of this was shot outside and we were at the mercy of the elements. You have to get your shots at the end of the day, know that you’ve got them, are happy with them, and moving on. I think you take one day at a time.
It’s a directors medium and I was there to help him in anyway that I could. He was also very open to what I or any other actor would bring to the table. Certainly the words are on the page, but you work with some where they want it said exactly the way it is, but Brian was very open to what I or anyone else would bring. We didn’t have a lot of rehearsal time, but he did give us the time to find it with each other, which was a real nice thing to have.
Cryptic Rock – That is a good thing to have. There are pluses and minuses working in a big budget or smaller budget film. With a bigger budget you probably do not have as much say. Where is with a smaller budget project, like Hostile Territory, you probably have a little more independence to interject ideas. Is that an accurate assessment?
Matt McCoy – It is! Not that I had more say than anyone else. But a lot of times if you say, “Can I have another take?,” we didn’t have the opportunity to do that much on this. I think that is to Brian’s credit that he put people in place that knew what they were doing, had a line on what they wanted to do, and Brian also had a line on what he wanted and needed through this character or scene. If it didn’t work, we certainly stayed put to get it. There is a simplicity in shooting as quickly as we did on this. You had to be on your toes. Brian and everyone else he hired came prepared. I think the proof is in the pudding.
Cryptic Rock – Certainly. Hostile Territory is more built on the story than action though. Was the fact that it was more of a developed Drama something that interested you?
Matt McCoy – Yes, I couldn’t agree more. I think when you melt those two together, if you have no story, the action comes out of nowhere and doesn’t mean anything. I come in and out of this, but there are certain points, and you have to look for those moments. There are really great moments in this with Cooper North. I think that is what appealed to me, the compassion shown in the face of great adversity.
Cryptic Rock – You mentioned how the film was shot outside in the elements. Was it mostly shot in Colorado?
Matt McCoy – Yes, we were in Durango, Colorado for a long time. We moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico after that because we had a lot of snow. I go back to Brian, he knew what he wanted. He knew what he wanted to see and he went and found it. If it wasn’t in Durango anymore, it was in Santa Fe. So we up and moved the whole company to Santa Fe…which is not a bad place to be.
Cryptic Rock – It all adds to the film’s atmosphere. With Hostile Territory out, what other projects can you tell us about coming up?
Matt McCoy – I’m shooting the second season of The Mosquito Coast on Apple TV. I was in Mexico for a month or so. We were in Mexico City and we were in Tulum. Once again, not a bad location to be in. The gifts keep on coming. I continue to work with really great folks in amazing locations. Jack Ryan was another example of that- we were in Marrakesh, Paris, and Montreal. I’ve been all over the world and the experiences I’ve had are as good as it gets.
Cryptic Rock – You get to do what you love and get to travel around the world! That is the true enlightenment, seeing the world and seeing how other people live. Until you see how other people live and other parts of the world, you are sort of closed in a bubble.
Matt McCoy – Too often you can’t recognize the gift in front of you. You think, “Why didn’t I take advantage of that?” I was in Marrakesh during Ramadan, so just to see these people embrace their faith at that time was an experience.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely, it is those experiences which inform and enlighten us. Last question. What are some of your favorite films?
Matt McCoy – I feel like as lucky I’ve been born into the time I have been, I love the film system back in the day. Jimmy Stewart is a huge hero I’ve mine; he and I are born on the same day and he’s the only guy I’ve ever written to. When I just look back on the performances he’s given. You look at the scope of what he did was remarkable.
There are certain movies you come up to and you just put the remote down, The Godfather (1972) is one of that for me. Casino (1995) is another one of those films for me too. It is not as much the characters, but what Scorsese does with the camera. Goodfellas (1990) is the greatest example of that, but he does it in so many other places too. You can also see the nuance in what Coppola does in The Godfather too.
There are so many things to love about film and television; because television is the place to be these days. It is like your watching a movie every night…the production values are so high and wonderful. What a great time we are living in to watch these series and these artists work to bring us something right as we’re sitting on our couch.